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Choosing Protein Powder After Jaw Surgery (& How to Avoid the Gross Aftertaste)

There are a few things that you should be looking at when trying to find a protein supplement that is right for you. Whether you are looking for a protein powder that will serve as a protein booster because you are having trouble getting the recommended amount of protein or as a meal replacement after jaw surgery, you will need to know what the different types are, the ingredients, nutritional value, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
The choice of which protein supplement you choose will depend on several factors:

  • How long has the product been on the market?
  • How long is the list of ingredients?
  • Is there any feedback available?
  • Is it a supplement or a meal replacement?
  • Will it be used as a weight loss or weight gain tool?
  • Are you lactose or soy intolerant?
  • Do you have allergies?
  • Where will you consume it?  If at home you have the luxury of using a blender,
    and adding other products such as fruit and yogurt. If you are at the office you
    will be far more limited in preparation and may opt for pre-made shakes.

Taste is one of the most important factors……it doesn’t matter how good the the protein powder is if you can’t manage to swallow it!

Most protein powders come in small packets….try it before you purchase a large container.
Research your options since there are hundreds of products on the market. You will want to find one that has a high quality protein, is free of additional supplements, and low in fat and sugar.

Protein Powder Options

Basically, there are four types of protein powders: Soy, Whey, Egg, and Rice.


Soy is the only plant protein that is complete. It contains all eight of the essential amino acids. Soy protein powder is highly digestible and is made from soy flour. Soy protein is appropriate for vegetarian diets (but that doesn’t mean that all protein powders made from soy are… make sure you check the ingredient list).

Improves the nutritional value of foods
Lowers cholesterol
Lowers the risk of heart disease [/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]Disadvantages:
Not for those with allergies to soy.
There is some controversy on how much soy we should be eating. [/twocol_one_last]


Whey Protein

Whey protein comes from milk and is the most common of the protein powders. There are two types….a concentrate, and an isolate. Concentrate is most common, and least expensive. It contains 30-85% protein. Isolate contains around 90% protein, is lower in fat, and contains less lactose than the concentrate. Isolate is considered the higher quality type.

Boosts immunity
Great source of essential amino acids
Releases hunger suppressing hormones[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]Disadvantages:
Not for those who are lactose intolerant. [/twocol_one_last]


Egg Protein

Eggs are a great protein source since they contain all eight essential proteins. Egg protein powder is made from egg whites, and is fat free.

Contains over 40 different types of proteins.
Egg whites have no cholesterol. [/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]Disadvantages:
Not meant for those with egg allergies (though true egg allergies are pretty rare). [/twocol_one_last]


Rice Protein

Made from brown rice and is a complete protein source. Great for vegetarians and vegans.
[twocol_one] Advantages:
Gluten free [/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last] Disadvantages:
Difficult to find. [/twocol_one_last]


For me personally, finding a protein powder that I could tolerate several times a day for after my total joint replacement (I was wired shut) was very difficult. I either found them too artificially sweet, bitter, or thought they tasted “off.” Some people can tolerate anything, but I have a really strong gag reflex.

I also think it’s important to note that if you are planning on supplementing with protein drinks for a while (longer than a couple days), the ready-made drinks (Ensure, Glucerna, Boost, etc) may not be the best choice since they are loaded with calories and artificial ingredients. Personally, I also think they taste disgusting. 😉

Here are some tips that helped me through the liquid phase of my recovery:

[unordered_list style=”green-dot”]

  • Add a banana! Everything tastes better with banana (plus it has potassium which is good for you).
  • Add sherbet or sorbet. Even though we’d probably all love it, adding ice cream to every meal is just not sustainable.
  • Add malted milk. Some people love it, some people hate it, but I found that it can really help the taste of some protein powders.
  • Drink it immediately! There is pretty much nothing worse than protein powder that has had a chance to sit and separate.
  • Frozen fruit can stand in for ice. Ice can make many protein powders watered down and, well, icey. If you don’t like that, try adding frozen fruit instead of ice (strawberries, blueberries, etc).
  • Flavoring extracts can be a lifesaver. They come in all kinds of flavors (vanilla, cinnamon, fruits, mint, etc). You can also add flavored syrups (the kind you add to coffee).
  • Substitute high protein foods if you just can’t stand protein powder no matter what you do or add to it. Foods like greek yogurt, tofu, eggs, and flaky fish have lots of protein.
  • Not a fan of the creamy nature of most protein drinks? There are some that are clear, like fruit punch or Gatorade. Some people can tolerate these much better.
  • Make jello! If you dissolve the protein powder in water, and then add it to jello mix, you can squirt this into your mouth with the syringe they gave you post-surgery (or just eat it if you aren’t post-op).
  • Add kale or spinach. I love this tip… you can put spinach or kale in your smoothie without noticing the taste (as long as you also put in some banana too). This adds some great nutrients.


What is your favorite protein powder? Do you have any tips to share with us? We’d love to hear them… Let us know in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “Choosing Protein Powder After Jaw Surgery (& How to Avoid the Gross Aftertaste)”

  1. I am a 30 year tmj survivor. My husband was put on Prosource (protein powder supplement) ingredients : whey protein concentrate, calcium caseinate, artificial vanilla flavor, soy Lecithin . gluten free, lactose 3% It was prescribed by his Dr. (my husband is a quadriplegic newly diagnosed diabetic…. he was healing from pressure sores and a severe abcess in back. ) I of course had to try it…. not bad mixed in with a semi melted orange sugar free popsicle . tastes like a creamsicle. mixes well too. May have to try it if I have to go under the knife again.

  2. I am just starting my search for jaw surgery meal replacement for my daughter. I also had surgery as a teen. I just happen to be a registered dietitian. If someone plans to be on “protein drinks” for more than a few days a “protein drink” is not the optimal choice. If you look at a protein powder formula you will notice that it is high in protein often lower in fat and may provide 100% of several vitamins and minerals. If you look at a meal replacement like Ensure (yes it is not that tasty) you will see that it provides more of a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates….like a real meal. The vitamin and mineral content of a meal replacement liquid or powder is more like a typical meal providing 25 or 30% of daily needs. Meal replacements have more calories than protein powders; perhaps 300 to 500 kcal. If a patient consumes three servings per day she will get closer to her calorie needs and get the needed calories in balance 30 % or less from fat, approximately 25% from protein, and the 40-60 % from carbs.

    Why meal replacement drinks instead or protein drinks ?

    * too much of some fat soluble vitamins is not okay

    * the water soluble vitamins are wasted and you basically end up with expensive urine

    * too much protein is NOT healthy. Normally you need .8 gm protein per kg (of your healthy body weight). Under stress/recovery you may need 1.2 gm at most per Kg of healthy body weight. Too much protein puts your body into an acidic state (not good). In order to bring your body into a homeostatic (normal) state your body pulls Calcium out of your bones (Calcium bicarbonate is alkaline) to balance out the acidic state. During recovery your healing bone needs calcium to stay IN your bones.

    Note: Often it has been said too much protein is bad for your kidneys. That has been proven to be false among healthy athletes. Longitudinal studies have shown that athletes who took excess protein did not later develop kidney disease. However there does appear to be an effect on bone density with prolonged excess protein intake.

    As a teen, after jaw surgery, I drank “protein shakes”. The powder formula was a balanced meal replacement. I only lost 10 lbs despite having my jaws wired and splinted for 8 weeks. I hope to find a product like that for my daughter. Only problem was that I LOVED chocolate powder, peanut butter, ice cream milkshakes and she doesn’t ! She will be doing the “no flavor” fruit smoothie with tons of Kale from our garden….as soon as I find just the right powder formula !

    Kelli McNaughton R.D.

  3. @ToddKelliMcNaughton Thanks for your comment, Kelli. I didn’t want to get into that much detail about the drink vs replacement since everyone is different and what one doc may suggest may not be the same as another. I just wanted to make sure people understand that there are indeed alternatives to Ensure or Boost. I have talked with many patients who after surgery just can not drink those types of drinks… and the last thing we want when someone is wired shut is vomiting, you know?

    As far as the right type of powder, we should have some reviews coming up soon of different brands (ready to drink supplement types, protein powders, and meal replacement protein powders). We would also love to hear back from you with what you find! 🙂 I hope your daughter’s surgery goes well!

    PS – there are a bunch of surgery recovery tips here:

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